Sometimes the background players in a place’s history can be forgotten; a person who was influential in the construction or revitalization of something yet did not try to be instrumental can fade from memories.
One of these people in Ramona’s history is Horace Shaw. He never lived in the community but he played a key role in shaping it.
Possibly Shaw’s most important contribution was encouraging Pat Wick, his caretaker for 5 years, to move to Ramona and buy property.
He helped Wick and her sister, Jessica Gilbert, refurbish Ramona bed and breakfasts they had purchased in the 1990s, even when he was so frail he had to prop himself up to paint.
Recently Mayor and council member for Ramona, respectively, Wick and Gilbert have been essential in providing Ramona with business — bed and breakfasts — and events such as Redneck in Ramona since they permanently moved from California in 2000.
“He encouraged us to go for it,” Gilbert said.
Shaw died in 2000 at age 90 but he left Ramona with reminders of his life and character. Since 1995, a 4-foot replica of the statue of liberty — brandishing a pink flame — has resided in the front yard of Cousins Corner bed and breakfast.
The statue was formerly planted outside of Shaw’s home in Berrien Springs, Mich. Shaw taught speech and theology classes at Andrews University for 19 years. The statue moved to Ramona when Shaw moved to California, when Wick was taking care of the 85-year-old. Wick and Gilbert had purchased Cousins Corner and were running it from afar.
The eastern downstairs room inside the bed and breakfast is dedicated to Shaw, and is painted vibrantly in red, white, and blue.
Shaw loved anything related to patriotism. Every tax day, Shaw would dress as Uncle Sam, in outfit made for him in 1976, and greet taxpayers at post offices. He performed this duty well into his 80s.
“He would say, ‘Thank you, don’t you feel better now,’” Wick recalls. “He was quite a character; he was just a character from the get-go.”
Wick had Shaw as a professor at Andrews University, even though she received degrees from other institutions. She was back at to the school 25 years later to speak when she saw Shaw in the students’ lounge during her visit. He did not recall Wick, even though she remembered her professor.
It was not long before Shaw, 75, struck up a conversation with Wick, 45.
“He loved to flirt with the ladies,” Wick said. “He had a certain bravado.”
Shaw and Wick became fast friends. The friendship grew over 10 years of letter-writing correspondence.
“He was a great person for words, a wonderful letter-writer,” Wick said.
Taking care of a man she admired 10 years after this encounter was hard on Wick. She said it was similarl to taking care of her parents in their old age.
“It was excruciating,” she said. “It’s not easy anytime you take care of other people.”
Wick has written one book about her relationship with Shaw called “Sincerely Yours.” She planned a second book based on her letters but eventually decided against it.
Now, 74, close to Shaw’s age when they met, Wick decided to burn 10 years of letters from both sides of the relationship recently. Shaw had kept every letter from Wick and made copies of every letter he sent.
It was a moment of catharsis and finalization; Wick reconciling the fact that she would never write the book she planned.
However, Shaw lives on in stories.
Shaw knew Muhammad Ali because the boxer owned a home in Berrian Springs. After getting Ali to speak at the college, they became friends.
One time, Shaw offered Ali a signed picture of himself dressed as Uncle Same. Shaw and Ali both found the ironic twist hilarious.
“If you want to grow old, you want to grow old like he did,” Wick said. “He never lost that wit.”